The National Research Council's 2010 Planetary Decadal Survey Inner Planets Panel commissioned the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center (GSFC) and the California Institute of Technology Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) to perform a point design study, conducted under NASA Headquarters leadership. The charge is to mature a Venus mission concept capable of studying the Venus climate within a New Frontiers cost range. The NASA Ames Research Center also participated in this study, providing expertise in planetary atmospheric entry.
The Venus Climate Mission (VCM) undertakes a thorough examination of the radiation balance, atmospheric motions, cloud physics, and atmospheric chemistry and composition of Venus. VCM will be the first ever truly 3-dimensional (and to a large extent 4-dimensional, including many measurements of temporal changes) characterization of the Venus atmosphere. Additionally, VCM will collect elemental and isotopic measurements to reveal the origin and evolution of the atmosphere and the evolution of the extreme greenhouse climate. It will gather evidence for the existence, nature and timing of the suspected ancient radical global change from habitable, Earth-like conditions to the current hostile runaway greenhouse climate, with important implications for understanding climate stability and predicting the long term fate of Earth's climate under a future warming sun.